Archive for February, 2007


I’ve known Sarah for three and a half years, as her daughter Charlie and my daughter Marina started school together. They became friends, so we’d always talk while waiting in the playground for the school-bell to sound. She was a nice lady; quite tall, freckled, always laughing and she had lines around her eyes that suggested kindness and gentleness, while still being quite feisty.

Nongyow recalls a couple of years ago, when Sarah had a few too many glasses of wine in our back garden while Marina and Charlie, a freckly curly-haired cute thing, bounced on the bouncy castle we rented for Marina’s birthday party.

Sarah was separated from Charlie’s dad, but was seeing a new guy and she became pregnant. Charlie was very excited at the thought of a younger brother or sister, and Marina and all the girlie gang used to enjoy touching Sarah’s stomach as Joshua (as she decided to name her son) grew bigger.

The last time I saw Sarah, I made my usual lame joke that she really ought to lose some weight. She laughed, and wryly agreed; she was 40 weeks pregnant, and bored of it – she told me she was anxious to have the C-section, and she was looking forward to seeing Joshua.

She gave birth just before Christmas, but had heart trouble soon after the delivery and went into a coma. She died on Sunday, aged 37, leaving her newborn son and a broken-hearted seven year old.

I didn’t know her well, and didn’t know her at all outside the context of our children and the school, but I mourn her.

(Story in Birmingham Evening Mail)

(Last Updated on 1 March 2007)


As I have in-laws in Oslo, and it’s school half-term, I decided to leave the cold, damp, grey skies of the U.K. for the cold, damp, grey skies of Oslo for a long weekend.

Here’s everything you need to know:

  • Oslo’s a very good-looking city, not too high-rise, well-kept, well-planned, with pretty environs that look like Narnia.
  • No wonder the Vikings were such good sea-farers; Norwegians seem impervious to scurvy – at least, I never saw anyone eating anything that looked like it might contain Vitamin C. My wife has been there half a dozen times, and has seen no evidence that citrus fruit is actually available in Norway. Although she did observe three people sharing one banana.
  • It’s an extraordinarily expensive place; a beer is about £5 a pint; a decent but unexciting meal in a restaurant cost £50 a person.
  • Norwegian women have the most spectacular breasts in Europe. However, as they’re so tall and statuesque, they’re more aesthetically fascinating than sexy. (The word they refers to the women, not just the breasts. Obviously.)
  • Norwegian people have no sense of personal space, and barge past you without apology, even when there’s no crowd. It don’t think it’s rudeness, but they’re culturally unconcerned with keeping that buffer around them. Which is odd: you’d assume that in a country the size of the moon but has the national headcount of a Staffordshire village that everyone want lots of personal space.
  • Everything works properly in Norway. The trains are clean, punctual and fast. You can pay for everything by credit card.
  • Don’t believe any nonsense about Norwegians being environmentally conscious. They heat their homes and offices like saunas. So, when you walk into a building from the cold, instead of just taking off your coat and gloves, everyone spends about 45 minutes removing earmuffs, gloves, boots, scarves, vests, undervests, seal-fur underwear, heated pants, goggles etc. I calculate that, on average, Norway loses 38% of the working day to dressing and undressing. That’s probably why everything’s so expensive; it takes so much longer to produce.
  • I was expecting Scandinavian people to be grumpy and terse – a bit like Germans with less bodymass and bonus fjords. Instead, everyone I met had an easy, relaxed sense of humour with a ready, infectious laugh.

Oslo rocks. Sell your house, and you could go for a week.

(Last Updated on 12 June 2008)

Nun joke

There’s a car full of nuns driving through Transylvania late at night. Suddenty, Dracula swoops down on the car and clings to the windscreen wipers, leering and licking the glass.

“Quick Mother Superior”, shouts a novice, “Show him your cross!”

“Good thinking!”, replies the Mother Superior, who furiously shakes her fist at the Count and shouts “Oi! Vampire! FUCK OFF!”

My two new sites with no valid pages

Everybody knows that to be completely accessible and web standardsly lovely your site should

  • validate
  • be perfectly semantic
  • completely separate style from content

and without that holy trinity, your site isn’t doing its job, right?

Wrong. Or rather, not wrong – but the three above are often not possible in a commercial environment, so you do the best you can.

Last month, two new sites launched for which I was front-end technical lead. Not a single page on either site validated.

Continue reading My two new sites with no valid pages

(Last Updated on 23 September 2008)

More public appearances

Don’t be weeping, just cos you missed seeing me at the WebDD conference. I’m doing an intro talk and a panel discussion on WCAG 2 at a Web Accessibility Training Day at the University of Central England on 23rd February.

If that doesn’t sound like enough like sex-via-Powerpoint, why not come and hear Gaoler, my 80s/punk/ metal covers band, tomorrow or Feb 24th in Birmingham?

Enough with the narcissism. Tell us the joke already

Q: Why do anarchists only drink herbal tea?

A: Because proper tea is theft.

WebDD conference slides and questions

Into the lions’ den ..

I don’t speak at many industry events, ‘cos it rather feels like preaching to the choir. Sometimes, it’s such a circlejerk that there are those who say that the web standards “war” is won, when a cautious peek into the real world shows that it’s anything but. Being an evangelist at heart, I relish invites to talk to the unconverted heathens, such as WebDD for Microsoft developers.

I was a little concerned, though, when walking into the Microsoft campus, that their security guys had read my recent anti-Microsoft rant, and that I was going to be the victim of a revenge Microsoft PSYOPS, especially as I’m told that they involve a member of Microsoft black ops dressing up as Clippy and following you at all times making banal observations about your everyday actions (“It looks like you’re drunkenly failing to get your key into the front door!” and “It looks like you’re attempting penetration!”) until you go mad.

Continue reading WebDD conference slides and questions

Cynara’s joke

A guest joke this week, from the lovely Cynara:

Two cows in a shed. One says “Isn’t it nice in here? All cosy and warm.”

The other cow says “No, I’m Friesian.”

Silly microformats question

I’ve been a bit wary of microformats, as I believe they play fast and loose with the semantics of the abbr element. They do this simply to accommodate Safari’s broken support for object, and thereby force a screenreader user who listens to titles to sit though monstrous reams of numbers or other data, that’s meant for machines not people.

But, I’ll try anything once (except necrophilia and Morris dancing), so decided to make a punter’s Contact Us page into an hCard.

And discovered it’s just too damn difficult for my wee brain to deal with. Here’s the deal: I need to mark up the following contact phone numbers (and it seems to me that helpline opening hours are part of contact details, phone prices arguably so):

Helpline – 0845 123 1234, Open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm, Calls to our helpline cost no more than 5p per minute for BT customers; other networks may vary.
Tel: 01926 123456
International: +44 (0)1926 123456
Fax: 01926 89123
Minicom: 0845 123 4567

Nothing in the type subproperty values list gives me any clue. Do you know, gentle reader?